This next-gen BMW 3 Series, codenamed G20, has a lot riding on its shoulders. Its predecessor, the current F30 3 Series, is a good but not great car and one that seems to disappoint more BMW fans than any other 3 Series of the past. Not only that, but the 3er’s competition has shot way up, with superb cars like the Alfa Romeo Giulia, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4 hitting the market. So this new G20 3 Series needs to be a hit and, thankfully, BMW knows it. So it’s put a lot of work into making the new 3er drive with the same enthusiasm that’s so fondly remembered in its predecessors. And the Bavarians have take it to the Nurburgring to test it out.
Along with some journalists to give it a test (unfortunately, we weren’t able to go), BMW took some pre-production G20 3 Series’ to the ‘Ring to give its chassis and suspension tuning a proper flogging. Those journalistic impressions will be out soon but, for now, let’s just talk about the 3 Series and what BMW has done to it to allow it to compete with this new breed of competition.
First, it’s built on a new chassis compared to the old car, as it sits on BMW’s new CLAR architecture, the same one that underpins everything from the X3 to the M5 to the 8 Series. That new chassis means the new 3 Series is lighter (by 55 kg/121 lbs) and also more rigid than before. It also gets new axle and suspension kinematics and elastokinematics, to provide sharper, more nimble and agile handling. It also gets a 10mm lower center of gravity, a perfect 50/50 weight distribution, a wider wheel track and increase wheel camber levels. All of this has been done in the name of handling and dynamics.
BMW has also fitted the new 3 Series with that it calls lift-related dampers, a first for a BMW production model. According to BMW, this new innovative suspension can “function continuously and progressively in relation to the respective spring travel. As such, the vibrations that occur when compensating for bumps on the road and during dynamic cornering can be neutralized especially gently and precisely – the perfect basis for striking a unique balance between sporty flair and ride comfort”.
These new dampers are actually a large part of why BMW brought the new 3 Series to the ‘Ring for testing. “We’re using the lift-related dampers as an active set-up element so as to create supreme driving properties in all conditions,” explains Peter Langen, Head of Driving Dynamics. “With short spring travel, a sensitive damping response ensures comfortable vibration compensation. When the car passes over large bumps, the body movements are controlled by increased damping forces.”
While these new dampers are standard equipment on the 3 Series, which already has a lowered ride height over its predecessor, an M Sport version of them will be available which lowers the car an additional 10mm. The M Sport suspension is said to be 20 percent stiffer than the standard setup and is said to be much sportier than the standard setup. In the past, the M Sport suspension was, honestly, not that noticeable, at least in terms of outright performance. However, BMW claims this new M Sport setup will be a significant different from the standard setup. “We’ve also made the M sports suspension much sportier, with more rigid bearings and stabilizers, harder springs and additional body struts.”
BMW has also tweaked the new variable steering rack to be more precise, less twitchy and more predictable. Let’s hope so, as we weren’t big fans of the last 3er’s variable steering. Having said that, the variable steering on the new 5 Series is much improved over that car.
There will also be an electronically-controlled limited-slip rear differential available on the new 3 Series. While it’s only likely to be available on the BMW M340i, it’s still nice to know that it will be an option. “Unlike conventional mechanical locks, the regulated M sports differential can optimize so much more than just traction,” says Langen. “In addition to cornering dynamics, there is a particularly tangible increase in drive stability in the event of load changes, for example. This allows the new BMW 3 Series Sedan to be driven remarkably confidently and effortlessly even when travelling in dynamic style.”
We can’t wait for the new BMW 3 Series to finally make its debut later this year. It will be a hugely important car for the brand, as it will have to take on some very tough competition. However, it seems as if BMW has put some serious thought and effort into this new 3er and things are pointing up for it.